Matthewby Mike Raiter
Jesus now enters the next phase of His ministry: ″From that time on . . .″ (v. 21). His approaching death will now dominate His teaching.
Peter, speaking for all the disciples, has boldly confessed that Jesus is the long-awaited anointed King. He was right to recognise Jesus as Messiah, but profoundly wrong in his understanding of the nature of Jesus' messiahship. Jesus has come to save not through force of arms, but through arms outstretched in death.
Jesus explicitly teaches the disciples that He must die and rise again (v. 21). This radical proclamation of the purpose of His ministry utterly confounds Peter. Jesus sees behind Peter's rebuke the malevolent hand of Satan, seeking yet again (v. 23; cf. Matthew 4:1-11) to derail His efforts in fulfilling the work God has ordained for Him. Peter, the ″rock″ on which Jesus will build His church, has become a rock of stumbling.
In one sense, Jesus' death on a cross will not be an isolated event. Any and every disciple must be prepared to face that same eventuality: to give up all for God's sake. The command to deny ourselves (v. 24) must not be reduced to something as trivial as a decision not to buy another pair of shoes, or even extend the house. It is to renounce control over one's own life. Throughout history, thousands of Christians have carried a cross to their own Calvary. Martyrs like Jim Elliot, an American missionary who died at the hands of Huaorani Indians in Ecuador on 8 January 1956, famously wrote, ″He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.″
In verse 27, the Lord Jesus underlines the seriousness of the life-and-death decision every disciple must face by reminding us that one day, we will answer to Jesus himself for these decisions. Until that day, when He establishes His kingdom on earth, Jesus' authority and kingly rule will be displayed in His church, especially after Pentecost, as many of His disciples will witness and experience it (v. 28).
The church needs to regularly hear these confronting words from its Lord (v. 27). In the twenty-first century, many Christians face loss and death on a daily basis because of their love for Jesus. On the other hand, many others who surrender to a costless Christianity, indistinguishable in attitude and behaviour from the unbelieving world, need to heed His warning.
What does it mean in practical terms for you to ″deny yourself″ (v. 24)?
Jesus promises a reward to faithful disciples (v. 27). What might this reward be? Should the prospect of a heavenly reward affect how we live now?